This week Mike Tiemann, Director of 252 Kids Large Group, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen discuss keys to setting up Large Group time for Small Group wins.


Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, Mike Tiemann, Director of 252 Kids Large Group, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to discuss setting up Large Group time for Small Group wins.

Mike grew up in northern California and studied English at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He served as Children’s Production Director and Children’s Director of a church in the Atlanta area for 10 years, and is now the Director of 252 Kids Large Group. He and his wife, Julie, have been married since 2001 and have two daughters.

Mike welcomes the crew and introduces the proverbial elephant in the room for every children’s ministry leader – creating a Large Group time every single week of the year.

We want to help you win! – which is why we’ve brought in an expert: Mike Tiemann, director of 252 Kids Large Group curriculum at Orange.

It’s a big topic.

Gina suggests it’s a LARGE topic. We see what you did there, Gina.

When it comes to Large Group time, we look at the time we have with our kids and see the boxes we need to check: keep them safe, tell a Bible story, get a few songs in. But it’s easy to miss the WHY behind Large Group.

1. What’s the goal of Large Group time on a Sunday?

Mike T: Speaking as a Large Group guy, it’s easy to think of Large Group as the destination. We’re gathered to hear the Bible story in an engaging way. If we’re thinking about it in a bigger way, the goal of Large Group is to set up Small Group to win.

2. Why is it important to set up Small Group?

Mike T: It’s part of a larger strategy. Getting every kid to hear a Bible story is a great goal. But it becomes even more when you have kids sitting down in community in circles with a leader who cares about them where they can ask: “Okay, now that I’ve heard this truth, what does it mean for my life?” Now Large Group exists to set up that conversation around a circle.

Mike C: That’s a philosophical shift. There’s a tendency to think that we have gathered here today to learn a Bible story.

“The Bible story isn’t finished until someone knows what to do with it.” Dan Scott

The best place to help someone to know what to do with the Bible story is not necessarily Large Group time. Every kid’s context is so different. You as a Large Group communicator can’t fit your message specifically to every kid. That’s the role of the Small Group leader.

Mike T: In Large Group, you get to really refine your message and say what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. That takes pressure off the Small Group leader. They don’t have to tell the entire story perfectly. But what they can do is apply it.

Mike C: When you’re recruiting, you will have people who don’t want to be on stage. “I don’t need you to do that. I just need you to pour into 8-10 kids.”

Then you have people like me: I would be a terrible Small Group leader, but I’m great on stage.

Large Group helps set the table for what only Small Group can do.

Gina: As a leader, I’ve been guilty of assuming that SGLs and leaders on the stage understand dynamic already. By not being clear with expectations, I leave that storyteller to assume the whole reason kids are there is to hear a Bible story. That’s information transfer. But transformation comes not from receiving information, but when you have to wrestle it down and have a conversation about it and figure out how does this apply to your life today. 

Mike C: It makes my job as a communicator so specific and clear. I communicate these few things in a very clear direct way for kids to unpack in Small Group.

Mike T: It narrows the focus of what you’re trying to say in Large Group. It’s tempting to feel like I have to get as much content here as I possibly can. Instead, if you’re setting up Small Group, you want something memorable, something specific and clear that is the answer to the question: “What did you learn today?”

3. Now we know the WHY, how do you put together an effective Large Group time that sets up Small Group for meaningful conversations? How can you leverage the time intentionally?

Mike T: Put yourself in the shoes of a second grader. You want to have fun. When they’re coming into your space is not the time to hit them over the head with a Bible story or even a song. Think of it as a funnel. The wide end is so important because a kid coming in needs to feel safe and welcome. To observe if they want, or to be on stage doing the slime game if they want.

Start with the wide end. As you move through your production, ask: what do I want them to experience next? What’s the next piece of the funnel to lead them toward Small Group? Worship is a fantastic next piece, because now you’re involving the whole room.

One step further: you’ve reached the Bible story. You’ve earned the kids’ buy in. They know what’s going on. They’re primed to understand the point of what you’re trying to teach. They feel like they’re part of what’s happening.

Narrowest point of the funnel is where we hand off to SGLs.

Mike: I love the funnel. It illustrates the journey you’re taking these kids on.

4. Talk about how the funnel concept applies to planning worship, too.

            Pro Tip: Don’t go from wild group game to Humble Thyself in the Sight of the

            Lord without a bridge.

Mike T: Start with a party song and move toward something that is more worshipful. Leave kids with a song that prepares them to experience the truth of the teaching.

Mike: How many songs do you recommend?

Mike T: What’s most important is where the songs are placed. Kids thrive on routine. I love putting worship between opener and story, because it’s the perfect bridge. It gets them thinking about God and faith.

You can choose 2-3 songs, depending on the age group. It’s subjective.

Mike C: During Large Group, you move from engage to involve to challenge. This is where you unpack the Bible story.

5. Do you recommend doing the Bible story live, on video, or a combination of both?

Mike T: Play to your strengths. You don’t need to be all things. If y a great teacher, you don’t also have to be the host. You could do video or live. You can’t substitute for a live host. But at the same time, kids are accustomed to engaging with screens.

A video gives you quality control. You’re getting the words said exactly the way you want them to be done.

Live can engage kids more, but you have to really work to get the language just right, and that takes skill.

6. Does Large Group change if you have a giant stage or large room with only the floor?

Mike T: If you have a large room, you can move around for stories. You can attach places to a location in the room (Isaac’s wells). You could even move the kids with you.

A stage is great because of sight lines and sound. But if you’re in a gym, there are things you can do that others can’t.

Ask, what is my environment optimal for and play into that.

7. Talk about the importance of transitions in Large Group time.

Mike C: One key element of Large Group is transitions. The hand offs have to be smooth. It takes a lot of hard work to get kids’ attention and seconds to lose it. You may not ever get it back.

Mike T: Transitions can make or break a moment. A worship leader might end by saying “See you next week,” which throws the kids off. The experience isn’t over for them. Move them clearly from one thing to the next. This is where training comes in— making sure the volunteers understand where their role fits in the larger picture.

Mike C: Same thing for the storyteller. They finish, pray, say “thanks guys” — and it’s not clear – what’s next? Instead, set the expectations clearly: “let me pray and then we’re heading into Small Groups.”

Mike T: In preteen, if you can leave them with a question, leave them curious, that drives them to the idea of discovering together. Strategically cue the kids about what’s coming next.

8. What percentage of your overall time should Large Group take (accounting for check in, games, etc.)?

Mike T: Think about what percentage you want to have in a circle. Subtract travel time, transitions, etc. You want 40-50% of your time in Small Group; LG probably shouldn’t be more than 50%. You can make a decision then on how much time you have and how to fill it in a strategic way.

Gina: We believe the win is a quality conversation in the context of a Small Group. Everything else cascades out from there, like how much time they have in Large Group.

You can pare down Large Group so that it allows enough time for Small Group to win.

Mike T: It helps a storyteller understand why we are not teaching every single thing we could about that story.

Mike C: Ask what is the win for each volunteer in the Large Group structure. Then give them a one-sentence description.

Mike T: We called them win statements. You can sit down with a list of the roles in your ministry today and list your win statements. Make sure they include the idea of setting up Small Group. Give them reminders through the year that what they are doing is not isolated to Large Group.

Mike: There’s an element of programming to this. Some people get into this because they love kids and Jesus. Programming feels overwhelming.

9. How can I find someone to help oversee the programming elements of Large Group for me?

Mike T: I firmly believe every church has people that have the ability to do this really well – but we haven’t asked them in a personal ask. You’re looking for an administrator. It doesn’t require that much technical expertise; it’s usually just being able to run a computer. There are students or adults out there who are great at doing this. If you can think of a very specific job for a specific person, it’s a very different ask.

Mike: Lots of people think if they’re not great with kids they can’t serve in kids’ ministry. They can still take ownership of Large Group and make sure it goes well, that the production values are high, but that most importantly, it sets up Small Group.

Mike T: You have to give it to someone you trust and handpick them.

Mike C: Initially it might just be them, but they can build a team. It doesn’t need to be high tech.

Mike T: My boss challenged me when I first began as Large Group director to find a producer. I wasn’t sure where to start, but realized those people are out there. Part of the job is technical, but so much of it is building a team. It’s relational. It’s having someone in the room whose only job is to focus on Large Group. It pays off relationally as well as in other ways.

Mike: We say with curriculum – you should never just download and use as is. The last edit is you as the ministry leader. You know your context better than we do. Sit down and ask where you want to take kids today and how you will do that.

Mike T: This week, think about your environment through the lens of a first-time guest. Will they feel welcome during the game? Involved during worship? Ready to hear that story from scripture? Will they feel confident when they go to Small Group that they have something to contribute?

Kellen’s outro ditty is livin’ large. You should go listen to it. Now.


This week

  1. Mentally walk through your Large Group experience with the perspective of a first-time guest. Do you feel welcomed? Engaged? Involved? Ready to contribute to a Small Group? What could you do to take the experience one step further?
  2. Create “win” statements for each individual who has a role in Large Group. Make sure they include setting up Small Group for the win.